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Is Network Automation Really Faster?

I've had several conversations with experienced network engineers about starting to use automation instead of manual processes for doing network configuration and diagnostic tasks. For a few tens of network devices, they often consider cut-and-paste (or copy-and-paste) operations with a text editor as simpler and faster than automation.

I can't deny that creating or modifying the configurations of 10 or 20 network devices can be accomplished quickly with an editor and SSH. It might take several days for a network engineer, who wouldn't typically be an experienced software developer to create and thoroughly test an automation script. The expedient approach is frequently preferred when you're just trying to get to "DONE!"

Why use automation?
If cut-and-paste is faster, why are we looking at automation? Here are several reasons:

  • To reduce human errors -- Studies have shown that human errors result in 60% to 80% of network failures and cut-and-paste is an error-prone, manual process. If a network device isn't reachable for a configuration change, the network engineer needs to make note to perform the configuration change when connectivity is restored. Finally, manual processes don't scale up for large networks.
  • To make the network as adaptable as the IT server environment -- Many server teams have been using automation for years, creating highly dynamic server systems. Network automation can provide the desired connectivity and security in a timely manner.

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